40 Before 40: Challenge #8

24 Feb

Here is an update about my #40Before40: Challenge #8, in which I am attempting to watch all of the Top 250 Films as rated by iMDB.

These are the films I have managed to watch recently:

5. 12 Angry Men

I had never heard of this film before, but what a film it was! It’s a really interesting look at a jury deliberating on the fate of a man on trial. I was captivated because, although the film begins with the judge saying his final words before dismissing the jury to agree on the verdict, the audience never once hears from the defendant or any of the lawyers. We only hear the discussions of the jury and what they remember from hearing at the trial. The case looks clear cut until one of the jury has doubts that the defendant is guilty and this leads to intense discussions about the notions of proof and doubt. I would highly recommend this film, if you haven’t already seen it.

49. Memento

I realised as soon as I sat down to watch this that I had seen this before: As I have so many left on my list to watch and I can remember clearly what happened in the film, I decided not to watch it. If I have time at the end, I will probably watch it again. It is a great film though about a man who had a condition where he can’t remember anything. Which is ironic because I couldn’t remember seeing it.

52. The Great Dictator

I have never seen any Charlie Chaplin films before and I was surprised by how much I liked it and by how funny it was. We are often shocked by things that comedians say or do today but this film shows that this has been the case for decades. The film essentially parodies Hitler, who saw himself as a great dictator. It was filmed during the time of the Second World War, which I find quite shocking with some of the impressions and suggestions that Chaplin makes. Chaplin plays both the role of the Great Dictator (a dictator of the fictional Tomainian) and a Jewish barber, who experiences trouble with his memory after saving the life of a pilot. I read later that Chaplin cast himself as a Jew because Hitler had mistakenly thought that he was Jewish. It was very satirical on many levels. I think that there is another Chaplin film on the list to watch and I am very much looking forward to watching that as well.

143. Casino

This film had a sort of an Ocean’s Eleven feel about it and at the start I had the feeling that it was going to run on similar lines. It was a typical gangster-type film with Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci, whom I can never watch without thinking of the Home Alone movies. I think that I liked the film overall but for me the film was a touch too long (two minutes short of three hours). I’m not sure if a shorter film would have taken away from the feel of the film or not but I guess that is a question that the director and the producers have to make. It also stars Sharon Stone as a former prostitute/coke head, who is married to Robert DeNiro’s character and you know that she is going to be trouble right from the off, even though he clearly loves and trusts her implicitly. In my opinion, this is the best role I have seen Stone play, though I am not sure that I would be able to name any other films that she was in off the top of my head.

153. La La Land

I love musicals but I am not so sure that I loved this film. If I am being honest, I don’t get why this film was such a big deal at the Oscars. The plot at the beginning was a bit too predictable: struggling actress who works in a coffee shop means musician who is having his creativity stifled by the industry hate each other but then end up dating. I can’t decide if I thought the ending was genius or a bit pathetic. It definitely wasn’t a traditional Hollywood ending and I’m still deciding how the ending made me feel and how I should interpret it. I did, however, love Ryan Gosling’s tap dancing.

So, that is another 5 movies off the list. I have now watched 90 and I have 160 left to watch. To me, it seems like I am making very little process with this list. I’m hoping in the next months, I can get quite a few more ticked off the list. I might have to have a big of a binge watch to start making a dent in the list!

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Leaving on a jet plane

17 Feb

By the time you read this I will be on my way to sunnier climbs – South America! The next few weeks are going to be intense: reunited with the boyfriend that I have only seen on and off for ten and a half months; travelling through five different countries, three different time zones, where they speak two different languages; experiencing sights, sounds and food that I have never experienced before.

For some people this might sound like something from a horror film. For me, this is heaven. Although I will take some trepidation with me, which I think is completely natural when leaving home for so long, I can’t wait.

One thing I am most looking forward to is the warm weather. It will most likely be too warm for me but I will endeavour to keep myself cool by drinking ice cold, local beer.

Fear not, dear Reader, I have already scheduled some posts while I am away, so you will still be able to read some of my musings and ramblings while I am no the road. I will also be posting a few updates while I am away, if time allows.

So, I’m leaving on a jet plane. I know when I will be home again* because a new job awaits me after the Easter break.

*Apologies to John Denver.

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Moving on…

14 Feb

Today was my last day in my current job. I handed in my resignation just before New Year, after I had accepted a job offer from another company. At the time, I was worried I had made the wrong choice: now I am just itching to get started at the new place.

I know, however, that the grass isn’t always greener. Of course, when you are looking for a new job, it is because you are not happy in your current one. When ever anyone describes a new job or a new company, it instantly sounds amazing and so much better than what you are currently doing. That is not very often the case though.

There is always a honeymoon period for anything that is new. In a new job it takes you six to nine months to get used to the new commute, the people and to get your head around the tasks that you need to understand and get completed. After this time, everything becomes a bit more routine. I work in finance after all, so there isn’t much room to be so creative. You spend a lot of time doing the same tasks over and over again every month. That is the nature of the beast.

Like a marriage, the longer you can prolong the honeymoon period, the longer the job will last. I have a feeling that this new job could go the distance. Without boring you too much, I will be joining a very young organisation, where there needs to be a lot of new systems implemented and old systems made to be more efficient. It sounds right up my street and this is something that I can really see myself enjoying.

This is highly dependent on, however, my expectation and if they are in line with the truth. Interviews are funny things because the organisation is trying to sell themselves to the candidates and vice versa. Of course, you don’t tell them something undesirable. If everyone in the department has quit because the coffee machine is broken, they won’t tell you this in the interview. Even so, I do have a good feeling about this new challenge. And if the coffee machine is broken, I will just drink tea, like I normally do. Problem Solved!

My new office is not far away from my old office so I can still keep in touch with colleagues and meet them for lunch once in a while.

For once in my life, I will not be hopping from one job to the next. I have my South America trip first before settling down to life in the Real World.

They say that a change is as good as a rest. I will be having a rest and then a change. I might be ready for world domination by August…

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Testing times

10 Feb

On the first Wednesday of February each year, the sirens are tested across Switzerland. Even though the testing is publicised in the newspaper, radio and television to remind people that it is just a test, I had completely forgotten this week until the piercing sounds rang out at about lunchtime. The sirens last for about one minute and sounds about as apocolyptic as it gets. I have no idea what tourists think when suddenly all of the sirens begin.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like to be alive in the blitz and to hear these sirens again and again, day after day. I also find it about surprising that a country that hasn’t been to war in over 500 years feels the need to have a general alert signal but we have nothing like this back in England. I guess we would have to just rely on social media and the BBC to tell us if a state of emergency had been declared.

In the current political climate, it is easy to see why such practices still take place. Virtually every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is check the news to make the rest of the world hasn’t been destroyed by one of our world leaders accidentally pressing a button that they shouldn’t have.

When my friend came to stay last weekend, she was surprised that we had a nuclear bunker built into the house. The entire population of Switzerland can be accomodated in nuclear bunkers with a reinforced steel door, if the need arises. This might seem paranoid but people in the UK were still building nuclear bunkers into the 1980s. The bunkers are also checked periodically as well. Inside they have a built-in radio so that messages can be relaid about what it happening and when it is safe to leave the bunker.

Our nuclear bunker is actually what we use as a basement now. So, if we did have to go down there and shelter, we would be sharing the space with ski equipment, bikes, recycling that needs to be taken to the recycling centre and a nice collection of wine. I remain hopeful that these things are like travel insurance: you have it just in case but you never have to use it. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Vegan dinner

7 Feb

I seem to be obsessed at the moment about doing research into finding vegan-friendly alternatives for when I start my #40Before40: Challenge #14, when I will attempt to eat vegan for three months. This challenge is enough to make even the most determined person weak at the knees – hopefully not literally though. However, the more research I do, the more confident I am that this is more achievable than I thought it was and the more inclined I am to think that I could actually remain eating a vegan diet long after my little experiment is done and dusted.

There are plenty of websites and information about there about eating a vegan diet. Obviously some of the claims that are made are probably coming from a biased angle, so it is not always easy to sort fact from fiction. But, if even half of the claims are true, the health benefits alone are a reason to cut dairy and meat  products from your diet. I was also surprised that lots of athletes are switching to vegan eating and are actually performing much better than previously, which goes against the stereotype that all vegans are puny things that lack nutrients.

As part of my planning and research before I jump head first into the world of veganism, I decided to cook a three course meal for three of my friends at the weekend. My definition of friendship is that if I am suffering then you should feel my pain too. After assuring them that the beer and wine I had was also vegan and, therefore, we would not be drinking tap water for the whole evening, they accepted my invitation.

Here is what I made for them.

First course was a roasted red pepper and sweet potato soup with a hint of chilli, which I was assured was the “right amount of spice”. I served this with bread and some homemade houmous.

The main course was a vegan moussaka. I love moussaka and, although I don’t eat it all that often, I was keen to try it out to see if it was any good or not. It took a while to make it and I managed to make enough for about 8 people. I was worried that we wouldn’t be full from a dish made from aubergine, tomatoes, mushrooms and walnuts. It was so tasty that I was more than happy to finish off the leftovers for dinner the following night.

The dessert was a bit of a disaster. I decided to make a macadamia nut cream from a vegan cookbook and an egg free meringue recipe that I found online. The macadamia nut cream went down well but I wasn’t so convinced about the texture as I thought it would have been better if it was smoother. But everyone ate it. The meringues just didn’t work and I’m not sure why. I make a lot of meringues and pavlovas and the mixture itself was identifical to the mixture that I have made with eggs. I think that the temperature for the oven in the recipe was wrong because the meringues came out flat and it came out a bit more like honeycombe than anything else. As I had vegan sorbet in the freezer, I served the sorbet with some of the meringues/honeycombe stuff sprinkled on the top. I will try the egg free meringue mixture once again though and see if the oven temperature was the problem.

All in all, I think we all enjoyed the meal. So a BIG thank you to Stefan, Mark and Araz, who suffered in the name of friendship and who, I am sure, will have to endure some more vegan meals in the near future!

One question that still remains about the diet is about the use of ingredients that technically are vegan (i.e. contain no direct animal products) but come with the warning may contain milk, because they were produced in a factory where milk products are made. On the one hand, you could argue that because the products will possibly only contain traces of animal products that I should be able to eat them. But, if you had a nut allergy, there is no way you would eat something which said it may contain nuts. I have also found a product which has an official vegan label on it but the small print for the ingredients says it may contain milk. So how can that be vegan?

Do you see my dilemma? I have asked several people what they think and I still haven’t found a general consensus. Do any of you have the answer? Please let me know your thoughts?

40 Before 40: Challenge #17

2 Feb

I am officially 8.5% of the way through the seventeenth challenge on my 40 Before 40 list. My 17th challenge is to write a diary every day for a year. 31 days of the year have already been and gone so I can be very accurate with how much of this challenge I have completed.

The reason I decided to add this challenge to my list was because I have tried several times to write a diary for a whole year and I have always failed after a few weeks. I’m not sure why I have managed to fail so often but this time I am determined to complete the challenge. Of course, if I fail to complete the challenge again in 2018, I still have a few more years to try to complete it.

Recently I have been wondering why people write diaries at all. Famous diarists, like Anne Frank and Samuel Pepys, would never had known that their daily musings on every day life would be still being read today and the insights that they would be able to give to us into historic events.

I have no doubt that what I sit down and write each time before I go to bed will possibly never be read by a wider audience and probably not even by myself. Personally, it had more to do with the act of sitting down at the end of the day to reflect on what I have achieved and what I have found difficult about the day. I have found, even at this early stage, that it offers time to sit quietly after a day which might have been very busy or stressful. This is something that modern life doesn’t often allow us to have.

I was hoping that it would also help to clean out my thoughts before I go to bed and, therefore, help me in my New Year’s Resolution to get more and better quality sleep. Unfortunately, I haven’t found this helps all that much. People often advise that writing something down that you are struggling with during the day is a good way for you to get these thoughts out of your head. I find the opposite is true. After writing things down, I find that I want to think more about these things and try to solve them if possible.

I will persevere though. It takes 66 days to form a new habit. So I still have a number of days to go until this has become a habit. It does help that I have set a recurring alarm on my phone so that I remember to do it every day and the diary lives on the bedside table. There is no way that I have been able to forget to make my diary entry for the day. Every habit needs a bit of encouraging and I hope that my sneaky tricks to make sure that I write every day will get me closer to ticking off another challenge from my list.

My very colourful diary

My very colourful diary

Weekend Wanderings

31 Jan

It already seems like the weekend was an age ago. I had a visitor staying with me over the weekend so things were a bit full on. My friend, Jenny, who I have been friends with for longer than I can remember, arrived on Friday lunchtime. I always enjoy having people to come and stay with me because it means that I get to take some time off work and show people the sights and do things I wouldn’t normally do.

After she arrived and we had had lunch, we caught the train to Zürich’s very own mountain, Uetliberg (all 800 meters of it!). From the top, you can get a great view of the whole city – from the airport to the city centre to the lake. I have been many times with many people and, obviously, the view is heavily dependent on the weather. Although it wasn’t the best weather I have seen while I was up there – that honour goes to my brother, who visited in August 2016 when the weather was just phenomenal – it was still impressive.

After a short walk and a quick beer while we waited for the train, we went to the FIFA Football Museum. I haven’t been there before and I have heard mixed reviews about it. I had also heard that they were thinking about closing it down because they don’t have enough visitors. I was pleasantly surprised. There is a lot of memorabila from past World Cups, the actual World Cup that will be presented to the winning team later this year and some great interactive games as well.

At the end of the tour, you can test out your football skills in five different games. Apart from a mum or two, we were the only women there. One man even said to me, after I had completely one of the skills tests with 100% score, “Wow, fair play to you, that was excellent.” Comments like that make me wonder if some men are even aware that women are now entitled to vote! Patronising comments or not, I would recommend the Museum, if ever you are in the area.

We headed home for a Raclette dinner, a few beers and an early-ish night because on Saturday we were up and out to go to visit Mount Rigi in Central Switzerland. Jenny really wanted to see snow but there hasn’t been any in the city for weeks so we had to head high up into the mountains.

The weather on the way up was making me nervous. It was so foggy and it was virtually impossible to see anything out of the train window as we made our way up. At the top it was even worse. I have been to the mountain before but the visibility was so terrible that I couldn’t even find my barrings to navigate our way to the top.

Finally, the fog and the cloud lifted slightly and we (very carefully) made our way to the top over treacherous black ice. The top was incredible. You had to be careful because the snow was so deep that the fences that prevent you from falling over the side of the mountain were completely buried. The top reminded me a little bit of how I imagine the surface of the moon to be. The snow was so compact that it looked like there were craters in places. Plenty of people were also falling over because they only had trainers on but luckily we had sturdy footwear.

I was losing hope that the fog would lift and we would be able to see the Alps. All of a sudden, the sky was crystal clear and the white tops of the mountain were radiant against the backdrop of the blue sky. We spent a while appreciating the view and taking pictures. Seeing Jenny’s utter delight at the mountains reminded me of how lucky I am to live here and for these sights to be right on my doorstep.

After a very gingerly descent down the mountain (but at least it was clear now), we had a bite to eat and headed back down the mountain to go to Lucerne, a place that Jenny has not been before but where I have been several times.

We had a wander around the city, which I always think is completely arresting and so quiet. We arrived at 4pm and noticed that a lot of the shops had already shut. People often complain that shops close early in Zürich but they are definitely open later than that. I do think that it is good that shop staff aren’t expected to work for the whole weekend but it just seems a little too early to me. I did wonder if the companies ever wonder about how much money they have lost through shutting early. They probably don’t give it a second thought; this is Switzerland. Everyone has enough money.

We decided to have one beer in a British pub and see if the football was on. Two football matches and a few-more-than-one beers later, we headed home.

Sunday was more relaxed. We watched the Australian Open final and then had a short walk around where I live. We managed to see some Red Kites, Buzzards and even a little Woodpecker. Jenny got some cracking photos of these too!

It was then time to go to the airport and the weekend was, once again, over far too soon.